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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The housing needs of mature women living alone : "The triple whammy" Nairne, Kathryn Elisa


While there is growing concern about Canada's elderly, the same attention has not been centred on the next generation of female elderly - mature women. This thesis begins to redress this by exploring the needs and aspirations of a sub-set of this group: mature women living alone. A conceptual framework is developed entitled "The Triple Whammy", which considers the consequences of being a woman; societal disapproval of living alone, and the cultural impact of aging. Mature women are unique in that all three factors impact directly on their lives. Before discussing the framework directly, a brief discussion of the theoretical constructs of Canadian housing policy is included to provide an introduction to the philosophy behind housing delivery and housing disadvantage. This is relevant to "The Triple Whammy" because housing is the area where mature women are most hard hit. To illustrate "The Triple Whammy" and the androcentric bias which permeates the extant literature, a literature review examines each of these factors separately and then together to highlight the systemic barriers faced by mature women living alone. The thesis examines socio-economic characteristics to explore their statistical disadvantage vis-à-vis other groups in Canada, with particular emphasis on the differences between women and men. These differences have profound implications for housing because mature women living alone have low incomes and do not benefit from the economies of scale accruing to couples. The socio-economic overview gives further evidence for the validity of "The Triple Whammy" framework. The case study consists of three main parts: an introduction to Vancouver's housing situation; participatory research with mature women from the Mature Women's Network and The Brambles Housing Co-operative; and an assessment of the validity of the research approach. Two workshops were conducted and twenty women participated. Because the women living in The Brambles were mostly chosen from the Mature Women's Network, I felt that working with the two groups would create an interesting and valid comparison. The women have a common experience, as they are mature women. By working with these groups, I intended to isolate the differences in housing, i.e., living in a mature women's cooperative or not, as the primary determinant of satisfaction. The discussion centred around the values we have for housing, what we like best about our housing and what we would like to change. The workshops highlighted the commonalities of mature women's experience of "The Triple Whammy". The research findings indicate that the women in The Brambles are much more satisfied with their housing and are more optimistic about the future. The women from the Mature Women's Network were frustrated by the lack of housing opportunities open to them. They were very concerned that their current housing would not meet their needs as they grow older. Overall, the research indicates that a mature women's cooperative better meets housing needs than market rental. The assessment of the workshop was very positive. Most women enjoyed the opportunity to discuss these issues with other mature women. The choice of research setting and format was appropriate in this instance. To conclude, some philosophical housing principles and general policy implications are outlined. These are designed to lessen the impact of "The Triple Whammy" and to create better human communities for mature women living alone.

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